The Foxcroft Academy wrestling team needed a new coach in its quest for a sixth consecutive Eastern Maine Class C championship this winter.

So the Ponies turned to the Hall of Fame.

Jayson Allain, a former high school state champion at Sanford who went on to compete nationally and internationally during the late 1970s and 1980s, has been named to replace Luis Ayala as the Ponies’ head coach, according to Foxcroft athletic administrator Tim Smith.

Ayala stepped down after eight seasons for job-related reasons, but during his tenure guided the Ponies to back-to-back Class C state championships in 2004 and 2005 and Eastern Maine titles in each of the last five years. Ayala also led Foxcroft to five Penobscot Valley Conference championships.

“It’s always challenging to take over a new team” said Allain, “but I just love the sport, and I love the chance to give something back to it.”

Allain, who lives in Dover-Foxcroft, most recently served as an assistant wrestling coach at the University of New Hampshire during the late 1990s and early 2000s, but his experience in the sport goes back more than three decades.

He was the 155-pound individual state wrestling champion in 1977 while helping Sanford win the single-class team state championship.

Allain went on to compete for a year at the University of Maine at Presque Isle before joining the Air Force.

He went on to win three Air Force wrestling championships, and earned his way onto two world championship teams, the 1979 CISM (Conseil International du Sport Militaire) Greco Roman Wrestling Team, and the 1982 World Cup Sombo Wrestling Team.

Allain won the 1980 Western Nationals in Las Vegas and was a three-time New England Greco-Roman champion. During the early 1980s he also finished sixth and third in two appearances at the U.S. Junior World Wrestling Championships.

His wrestling career ended during the mid-1980s after he went reconstructive anterior cruciate ligament surgery, but he soon joined the coaching ranks as an assistant in Biddeford High School while studying at the University of New England and also became active as a youth wrestling coach in York County.

Allain also is a certified as a bronze-level Olympic coach.

In 2002, Allain was inducted into the Maine Amateur Wrestling Alliance Hall of Fame.

Foxcroft, which finished fourth in last year’s Class C state meet, graduated some key seniors including four-time state champion Jerod Rideout. The Ponies’ returning cast is led by Kaleb Mann at 119 pounds and Andrew Larson at 285, both of whom finished third at the 2008 state meet.

“We’re going to have a great season, I think the kids will do extremely well,” said Allain, who will be assisted by former Foxcroft wrestler Chris Cookson. “All of the kids at Foxcroft are extremely enthusiastic, which I think is a testament to the enthusiasm of the people in the community.”

Searsport hoop posts filled

Searsport District High School has filled its two varsity basketball coaching vacancies just in time for the start of preseason practices this week.

Brad Cook has been hired as varsity boys basketball coach, while Lara Safford has been named varsity girls coach, according to newly named school athletic administrator Jim McGinn.

Cook is a 1990 Searsport graduate who captained the Vikings’ basketball team as a senior. He went on to play junior varsity basketball at Husson University in Bangor, and has been active as a youth basketball coach in the area.

He will be assisted by new boys junior varsity coach Jeff Golder.

Safford has served as the varsity girls basketball coach at North Haven, and also has coaching experience in the Vinalhaven and Ellsworth school systems. She will be assisted by girls junior varsity coach Amanda Pullen.

Cook and Safford replace Jim Parsons and Amy Dyer-Kelley, both of whom stepped down earlier this fall citing family reasons.

Both Searsport’s boys and girls varsity teams went 0-18 last winter.

USA Football supports Gibson

Ricky Gibson’s wish of improving the football facilities at Maranacook Community School in Readfield is now drawing national attention.

USA Football, the sport’s national governing body on youth and amateur levels, has made a $3,000 donation of new football equipment to the cause. USA Football, based near Washington, D.C., ordered $2,000 worth of new football helmets and shoulder pads for Maranacook in Gibson’s honor, and USA Football equipment partner Schutt Sports extended an additional $1,000 in equipment for the $3,000 total.

Gibson, a 15-year-old sophomore football player at Maranacook, was diagnosed in September with a malignant tumor in his brain stem. When the Make-A-Wish Foundation asked him for a wish, he simply asked for the addition of lights and bleachers at the school’s football field.

“Ricky’s incredible team-first request inspired USA Football to promptly support him and his teammates,” said USA Football executive director Scott Hallenbeck in a press release. “The fact that this young man’s passion for football and his friends is his priority at this time in his life speaks to how extraordinary he is.”

Others interested in helping Gibson’s wish come true may send a check to Maranacook Educational Foundation, P.O. Box 133, Readfield, ME 04355, and note “Ricky’s Wish” in check memos. Donations of more than $250 will receive a 501(c)(3) letter for tax purposes.

USA Football hosts more than 100 football training events annually offering education for coaches and game officials, skill development for players and resources for youth football league commissioners. The independent nonprofit also manages U.S. national teams within the sport for international competitions and provides youth football league volunteer background check subsidies. USA Football is chaired by former U.S. congressman and professional quarterback Jack Kemp.

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...